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Travel + Culture

Travel Smart:
Designed to Death

Gourmet’s travel editor thinks hotel décor should not be hazardous to your health.
designed to death

The smoked salmon looked good, so I took a step over to the far side of the buffet to put some on my plate. But my foot landed on a decorative little piece of ski-jump molding, and I nearly nose-dived into a bowl of capers instead. By now I understood this was all part of the DNA at the Hotel Q in Berlin, which leans heavily toward the Merry Prankster School of interior design. The Q (as in quirky?) was so hip, so cutting edge, you wouldn’t dare question anything for fear that you were the kind of nerd who shouldn’t be staying there in the first place.


Upstairs, in my room, the same Alpine touch could be found next to my bed, curving gently from the floor up to the platform that held the mattress. Each morning after I rose, my foot hit the ess-curve, throwing me instantly off balance and thrusting me straight back into the sack, as if socked in the kisser by Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story. And then there was the bathtub, mounted like a Greek temple on the other side of the bed platform, which meant every drop over the side went cascading down to the mattress. A big splash and you wondered if you should’ve taken out flood insurance at check-in.

Whatever happened to form follows function? Why are there no rules to rein in the gross excesses of hotel design? Actually, now there are: Mine.

Rule 1: Don’t turn décor into a lethal weapon. This can happen at even the most traditional of establishments. I once stayed at a hotel in London with oh-so-proper furnishings, but there were simply too many heavy pieces in the room. I kept slamming into the canopy bed, bouncing off the antique nightstand, and ricocheting off the TV armoire as I ping-ponged around the room. By check-out, my thigh looked like a Xerox of Starry Night.

Rule 2: Don’t make oversized furniture just to be cute (Philippe Starck, this means you). Nobody wants to feel like Edith Ann when trying to look glamorous in the lobby.

Rule 3: Make sure there are plenty of mirrors. It’s really hard to squeeze a full-body reflection into a shaving mirror. But don’t go all Versailles, either, causing guests to think there are more people in the room than there really are.

Rule 4: Don’t turn the elevator into a Bates Motel. A creepy, tight spot is the last place you want to be before retiring for the evening. And, please, no projected videos on the walls and ceiling inside the car. Amusement park rides belong outside.

Rule 5: Keep bathrooms simple. Cascading waterfalls as urinals and fountains for washing hands are downright confusing. Nobody wants to have to figure out which is which after a martini or two.

(Note that anyone caught breaking these rules will be banished to Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, to pay for their sins.)